WEST PARIS — A local man is charged with cruelty to animals for fatally shooting his neighbor’s dog that came onto his property, town Animal Control Officer Ozzy Hart said.

Steve McCann, 45, of 31 Smith St. was given a summons to appear in a Paris court on June 12, Hart said. If convicted, McCann could face a $500 to $2,500 fine, Hart said.

The charge stems from an incident the night of May 1, when the dog’s owner, Kevin Newton, said he let his 13-year-old mixed-breed Rhodesian Ridgeback and boxer, Jake, outside without a leash. Jake was not wearing a collar or identifying tags.

When the dog had not returned after two hours, Newton became worried and started searching about 8 p.m. but couldn’t find him, he said.

The next morning, he resumed his search, asking neighbors for information. Newton said he asked McCann for details, and was told the dog had been spotted a few weeks prior in a nearby cemetery.

Newton said he was searching later in the day in a swampy section of behind the cemetery when McCann approached him and said he had shot the dog.

“He said he shot him because ‘it was a pit bull-looking dog,'” Newton said.

The pair walked to a section of the cemetery where McCann had carried the dog, and Newton brought the animal home and buried it, he said.

“I didn’t want my kids to see,” he said.

McCann did not dispute that he shot the dog, saying he believed it to be without an owner and was a nuisance to the community.

“I felt as though I was protecting my family,” McCann said in an interview Tuesday.

He said the dog had appeared without a collar or tags on and around his property multiple times in the past several weeks. On at least one occasion, he had to chase the dog from his driveway, he said.

“It looked like a dog that was not cared for,” he said.

McCann said he was driving May 1 when he received a call from his wife, scared that an unknown dog was running around his yard. When he returned home around 8:15 p.m., he said, he found the dog “acting crazy,” darting in circles around the house. He got a a .22-caliber rifle, went outside and fired multiple rounds from a close range, he said.

McCann said he did not want to fire the shots, but after spotting what appeared to be a stray dog behaving “erratically,” he thought of his 5-year-old son and wife.

“It was not acting right,” he said.

State and local laws require pet owners to register their dogs. West Paris’ Animal Control Ordinance stipulates dogs must be registered within six months of ownership, though most residents simply aren’t aware of the law, Hart said.

State law says, “a person, including an owner or the owner’s agent, is guilty of cruelty to animals if that person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly kills or attempts to kill any animal belonging to another person without the consent of the owner or without legal privilege.”

According to Hart, a self-defense clause allowing lethal action did not pertain to this incident.

“If there was a threat he would have already been attacked. He started chasing the dog, and the dog was running away. Then he shoots the dog,” Hart said.

While feeling partly responsible for his pet’s death, Newton said he wished other actions had been taken.

“The penalties didn’t fit the crime. There were other avenues. Jake was just wandering where he shouldn’t have been,” Newton said.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: